Javanese Manuscript of the Adventures of Hamza


The adventures of the early Islamic hero Hamza, the uncle of the Prophet Muhammad, are a favorite subject of Javanese literature in which the deeds of the hero, here called Ménak, are retold. The Javanese legends are written in poetic form and relate the stories as occurring during the lifetime of the Prophet. This manuscript, written in the Javanese and Pégon (Arabic–Javanese) alphabets, contains a number of the main episodes in the tales of Hamza. The codex offers a prime example of the art of book illumination that flourished during this period in Yogyakarta, a city and sultanate on the Indonesian island of Java and a traditional center of Javanese culture. Particularly remarkable are the various highly symbolic wadana, ornamentally decorated pages at the beginning or the end of separate text passages. These are often illustrated with architectural motifs representing temples. Unfortunately, several pages of the manuscript have been obliterated by ink corrosion. The manuscript is at the Bavarian State Library in Munich, Germany.

Last updated: February 12, 2016